By Bill Yackey
The scene at the University of Delaware banking center was a mess. Behind the counter, employees scrambled to process individual checks while students filed through the doors like they were at the Delaware-Lehigh football game.
For Wilmington Savings Fund Society Financial Corp., the parent of WSFS bank, which operates a student branch at UD's Perkins Student Center, the problem was that too many students were using the teller window for so-called simple transactions - making withdrawals and deposits.
Wait times were horrible, and branch efficiency needed improvement.
On the campus in Newark, Del., WSFS supplies private student accounts that are linked to the university's student-account system, allowing students to pay for tuition, books and food on campus.
The accounts are accessed via the magnetic stripe located on the back of each student identification card, essentially making the IDs multipurpose ATM/debit cards.
After numerous complaints from bank employees and students, the bank began looking for a line-busting solution that would also improve customer-experience. The answer: a self-service system that could be integrated with the bank's existing network of ATMs on the campus.
WSFS and the University of Delaware had partnered since 1998, when the first on-campus branch was opened. But by 2002, WSFS needed to find a way to cut costs associated with running the branch, which was bringing in far less than it was spending to just keep the branch open.
To that end, WSFS launched a self-service campaign that included an effort to replace its existing on-campus branch ATMs with NCR Corp.'s line of Personas M Series 86 no-envelope ATMs. The ATMs, in addition to cash dispensing, offer intelligent-deposit features.
When the bank initiated its migration effort, an equal number of transactions within the branch were performed at the teller line and the ATM. That ratio was too expensive for the bank to support, said Bill Allen, Marketing Director of Self-Service for NCR. But as WSFS started charging a fee for deposits or withdrawals made at the teller window, the bank successfully migrated students to the ATM. Soon the ATMs in the branch were doing four times the number of transactions than tellers were.
Later, when WSFS replaced its branch ATMs with the Personas 86, transactions at the ATM trumped the teller by eight-to-one.
"The next move was to replace the envelope-deposit component on the ATMs with an envelope-free check imaging system," Allen said.
"Students then were able to get check-image receipts, giving them positive feedback that the check went through." The bank branch eventually increased its deposits by 73% and cut its number of branch tellers from four to two.
College campuses are now like mini-cities, in the sense that all the resources students need can be found on campus. At some schools, like Elmhurst College near Chicago, students don't even have to leave their dorm building to visit the post office.
As the U.S. Postal Service began removing postage-stamp machines from the student activity area, Elmhurst began deploying Pitney Bowes' Mailing Kiosks across its campus, giving students access to a one-stop location to mail packages. The kiosks were installed this summer.
"In the university market, if you look at the top five facilities in the campus that students are unhappy with, generally, mailing is one of them," said Brian Leary, Director of Business and Market Development for Internet and Retail Solutions at Pitney Bowes.
Kendall said adoption and utilization of self-service is relatively high among university and college students.
After placing a test unit at Emory University last year, the mailing kiosks immediately picked up between 30 and 40 transactions per day.
Kendall said students really appreciated the 24/7 convenience, the intuitive user interface and the kiosk's location in the heart of the Student Union area.
One mailing kiosk can handle up to 71 packages between pick-ups. "That's the No. 1 reason people use it - convenience," Leary said. "Second is control. People know of all their options, from tracking to delivery confirmation."
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